Thursday, July 27, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Never mind the internecine Democratic politics of Connecticut and the role that ethnic, labor and local sentiments will play in deciding the primary contest between centrist Senator Joe Lieberman and liberal challenger Ned Lamont. Never mind that the contest has made Connecticut the front line in an increasingly bitter brawl involving and the liberal blogosphere on one side and the Democratic Leadership Council and a substantial contingent of the party's Washington elite on the other. Never mind that both sides spend inordinate amounts of time debating whether George W. Bush thanked Lieberman for the senator's unwavering support of the Iraq War with a slobbering kiss or merely a peck on the cheek when the two embraced at a State of the Union address.
When the votes are counted on August 8, the whole of the Connecticut primary, and much of the national debate over the direction of the Democratic Party, will be boiled down to a one-line pronouncement. It will either be "Antiwar challenger trounces Lieberman" or "Lieberman prevails over war foes." The reduction of this complex contest to a headline may not be entirely fair, or entirely accurate. Yet it will be understandable, because to the surprise of just about everyone, the man Democrats nominated for Vice President in 2000 is in a fight for his political life with a previously unknown candidate who decided a few months ago to surf the wave of anger stirred by Lieberman's emergence as the loudest Democratic defender of the occupation of Iraq.

Molly noted the above from John Nichols' "A Fight for the Party's Soul" (The Nation). Nichols is writing of some of the stakes in the Lamont-Lieberman race. Is it a referendum on the war? Possibly in one state. But the primary is also about incumbency. Unlike House districts, obviously, Senate districts aren't redrawn. So what happens when you lose a healthy portion of your state's support? You're in a race for your life. I really enjoyed Nichols' column but I know members (who will be voting in the primary and will be voting Lamont) were ready for a change before there was a challenger. I know they appreciate Lamont's stance in contrast to Lieberman but there are a wide range of issues that have led to the disenchatment with Lieberman.

(Brady has a thing on that in Sunday's Polly's Brew -- he's interviewed every registered Democrat on six blocks, including his own block in that count -- and there are some very interesting comments being made in that. There is one, only one, who support Lieberman and he's given his chance to speak as well so be sure to read that. It's been a very long week and I may forget to give another heads up.)

Lieberman's served the Bully Boy well and he's not the only one. Lloyd noted Matthew Rothschild's "Maliki Parrots Bush, Gives Scant Hope of U.S. Withdrawal" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Two other lines from his speech stood out. First was the astonishing statement that the new government is helping to "consolidate the role of women in public life as equals to men." Iraq right now actually is a "living hell" for women, according to Houzahn Mahmoud of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq. As Ruth Rosen recently noted, "The invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women -- and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world -- they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes."
Last, but perhaps most telling of all, Maliki gave a one-word timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq: "eventually."
That just doesn't cut it, not after 2,554 deaths of U.S. soldiers and the wounding of more than 18,000. Here is the passage, in its depressing entirety: "The completion of Iraq's forces forms the necessary basis for the withdrawal of multinational forces, but only then, only when Iraq's forces are fully capable will the job of the multinational forces be complete. Our Iraqi forces have accomplished much, and have gained a great deal of field experience to eventually enable them to triumph over the terrorists and to take over the security portfolio and extend peace through the country."
"Eventually" is much too long a time to wait.

On al-Maliki, to clear up questions Shirley and Martha noted were coming in at the public account (al-Maliki's been addressed at length in the gina & krista round-robin and Polly's Brew) . . . I try to avoid speaking in terms of "us" or "them" when referring to governments. I don't confuse a government with a people. al-Malike spoke in a manner where it suggested he was in Iraq. He wasn't. He left the country out of fear for his own life. That may or may not have been a wise decision, but it's an option he pulls off the table when it comes to American troops.

Can he criticize the administration? He can. He can criticize past administrations. However, you don't usually do that in the US Congress when you're asking for money. That's generally considered bad form. Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, et al are not my heroes. But I think his criticism of their decision was bad form when attempting to ask for money and, in fact, lives

(He can be rude if he wants and as rude as he wants. I didn't call for his head on a stick, I noted he was rude -- Wally made the point that the Dixie Chicks were threatened by some for far less -- which is a valid point.)

I think it was rude and I have no problem noting that it was rude. He was making a life for himself in Syria or Iran at that point. So for him to come back post-invasion and try to present himself as part of the suffering was laughable.

Wally referred to the "father-son psycho-drama" (Bully Boy and his father) and it's certainly interesting how much Bully Boy enjoys trashing his father. (His physical father.) That certianly adds another dimensions to his statements.

Reuters noted this:

"Let us not allow what happened in 1991 to repeat itself, because if it does history will not be merciful to any one of us," he said. He was referring to the Gulf War, when then-President George H.W. Bush was viewed as supportive of insurgents against Saddam Hussein, but did not lend military assistance.

He was also referring to the decision not to go into Baghdad. Again, no fan of Colin Powell or Brent Scowcroft here, but it's curious that his judgement (today anyway) is that troops should have gone into Baghdad, the capitol of a country he fled for his own safety.

It's always okay for someone else to die, apparently. It's okay for people to be bullet-fodder and cannon-fodder (and roadside bomb fodder and . . .), as long as it's other people.

He went to Congress, slammed a policy decision (one made by the Bully Boy's father) while asking for money, and said it was okay for others to continue dying. But, when it was his own butt on the line, he got out of the country and stayed out (for over two decades) until others tackled what he was too cowardly to tackle.

He's a War Hawk and, like a good many of them, he's never going to put his own butt on the line but it's okay for Iraqis, Americans, British, Australian, etc. to die. That's fine with him. And it's fine that the dying continues. I don't know how to explain it any clearer (for visitors). He sits safely in the Green Zone today, after returning when others did the work he apparently supported . . . from a safe distance. It's supposedly work he believes in. I don't think you spend over two decades in exile and let others do the work if you support it.

As for the issue of the money, I never said Lebanon didn't deserve aid. (Shirley notes in her summary that one visitor wrote, "I can't believe you're saying Lebanon can't have aid.") It does deserve aid, it needs aid. It needs the international community to step in on that and it needs the international community to speak loudly against the aggression that it's facing.

My point is, if you've got your hand asking for money, you don't turn around and start passing it around. $35 million may not seem like that much but there are many programs in the United States that would benefit from that money. To me, it's like someone asking you to loan them rent money and then it turns out that they didn't need it and spent it on something else. It doesn't matter to me what they spent it on. They said they needed it and they blew it. In Iraq right now, there are children (and adults) suffering from malnutrition. Electricity is not a 24-7 thing. Potable water is not a given. If there's $35 million extra just lying around, it needs to be spent on the people of Iraq. That's what the Congress voted on. If the government has a 'surplus' they don't need to return it to the US but they do need to spend it on improving the lives of the Iraqi people. That is the reason Congress has funded the money to begin with. If al-Maliki wants to play Diamond Jim Brady, he needs to stop asking other nations for money.

But the reality is the government doesn't have $35 million extra. To make up that $35 million, it's the people of Iraq who will again have to suffer. So before he offers his next lecture on 'tragedies,' he might try providing for the people he supposedly represents.

I think Arianna Huffington's question in "Maliki's Testy Visit: Is This What Our Troops Are Dying For?," The Huffington Post) was a good one and have no idea why others aren't asking it as well:

What more, Maliki wants to "maintain strong ties to Iran," has sided with Hezbollah in the current hostilities with Israel, and has pledged $35 million in aid to Lebanon (where is that money coming from?).

Good question and to quickly go off topic, West strongly recommends an interview Matthew Rothschild does on this week's Progressive Radio (Elizabeth DiNovella is the guest for Rothschild's interview and for those wanting a report on the election in Mexico from someone who was on the ground there, I think you'll enjoy it. I did.)

Back on topic. Jim Mannion (AFP) is reporting that 3,500 US troops set to leave Iraq shortly just got extended on their tours of duty which brings an end to hopes that Alaskans serving in the 172 Stryker Brigade would be going home. Or Robert F. Worth (New York Times) explaining the statements of Lemuel Lemus that US troops killed three Iraqi detainees May 9th. (We'll go over that tomorrow. Heath noted it in an e-mail but also noted, rightly, that there may not be a great deal of coverage on Iraq tomorrow.) This is the incident where the four accused are also accused of threatening another soldier (not Lemus) if he came forward with what allegedly happened. Since the snapshot earlier today, Reuters has reported the discovery of a corpse near Kirkuk ("bullet wounds . . . signs of torture") and two deaths -- near Kut, a translator was murdered and in Kut a drive-by shooting resulted in another death. There's a great deal going on -- every day.

And with or without coverage, the war drags on.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the American troop fatality stood at 2558. Right now? 2570. al-Maliki flew to England and the US and the dying didn't stop. The press coverage dipped, but the dying didn't stop. The dying continues. The malnutrition continues. The chaos and the violence continue in Iraq.

Margot's highlight take a big picture look at the Middle East, noting the connections in armed aggression. From Sharon Smith's "Lebanon and the Future of the Antiwar Movment" (CounterPunch):

Israel's indiscriminate-yet thoroughly systematic-slaughter of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians should be a moment of truth for the U.S. left. The fact that "about 55 percent of all casualties at the Beirut Government University Hospital are children of 15 years or less," according to journalist Dahr Jamail, should dispel any myth that Israel's latest incursions are acts of "self defense" as Israel's many apologists claim.
The Bush administration's rush shipment last weekend of precision bombs to aid Israel's onslaught should be a wake-up call for those on the U.S. left who purport to follow antiwar principles yet until now have failed to take a clear stand against Israeli manifestations of the U.S.' so-called war on terror.
To do so requires acknowledging that the U.S.' wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were meant as mere stepping stones in a strategic plan aimed at establishing U.S.-and Israeli-dominance over the entire Middle East. With the U.S. occupation of Iraq rapidly spinning out of control and descending into bloody civil war, Israel is providing an alternate route toward achieving those shared goals-for U.S. domination over the Middle East ensures Israel's domination as well.
Look no further than the mainstream media to verify this revelation. As the Washington Post argued on July 16, "For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say."
Realizing this goal requires crushing Arab organizations fighting for self-determination in Gaza and Lebanon.

Just as Arianna Huffington was left to ask an obvious question alone (where did the $35 million come from) Mike thinks David Corn may be left to ask a question alone, "Why Is the US in Iraq?" (The Nation):

Bush, all too obviously, has no good ideas how to navigate these shoals--which may not be navigable. After saying that more troops would be deployed to Baghdad, Bush was asked by an Iraqi reporter what could be done to improve the security situation in Baghdad. "There needs to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account," he replied. "In other words if you find somebody who's kidnapping and murdering, the murderer ought to be held to account. And it ought to be clear in society that that kind of behavior is not tolerated....We ought to be saying that, if you murder, you're responsible for your actions. And I think the Iraqi people appreciate that type of attitude."
In other words, just say no to killing. That's not much of a plan. And there's not much of a role for US troops in such a plan.
Bush has led the United States into a rough thicket in Iraq. It has taken him months--perhaps years--to acknowledge the troubles there. And his inadequate description--it's "terrible"--is far more upbeat than the depictions shared by reporters and others who have come back from Iraq in recent weeks bearing depressing and ugly tales of a society falling apart.
Iraq is a mess. Bush bears much of the responsibility for that. He invaded the country supposedly to defend the United States from a threat that didn't exist. He did not ensure that there were proper plans for the post-invasion challenges. He did nothing as his national security aides bungled one key strategic post-invasion decision after another. Now he has to contend with a violent sectarian conflict that his elective war unleashed. He has, to a limited degree, acknowledged the problem. He hasn't yet admitted there may be little he can do about it.

It's an obvious question (that's not an insult to Corn). But the most obvious questions are sometimes treated like the elephant in the room. (Not like "the pink elephant in the room." Sounds like someone's struggling in their understanding of therapy and/or recovery when they make a statement like that.) And on that blind item, we turn to to the subject an out and proud War Hawk who is just saying "Give Death a Chance." Ned highlights Joseph Grosso's "Hillary's White House Ticket" (CounterPunch):

A pro-Israel rally in New York on July 17th allowed Clinton to strut her hawkishness for the camera (and continue to ignore the thousands of Palestinians rotting in Israeli jails and the fact that just about all the dead bodies in Lebanon belong to civilians). She told an excited crowd that she supported Israel with "whatever steps are necessary" to "defend" herself and that "we will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones" (she voiced a similar sentiment in May 2005 in a speech at an AIPAC conference when she lauded Israel not only as an ally, but also "a beacon of what democracy can and should mean"). While at the very least most of the international community talks of a cease fire and restraint, Clinton flexes her resolve from the safety of New York.
Clinton was joined at the rally by other New York politicians including State Attorney General hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and Mark Green- the latter referred to the captured three Israeli soldiers by saying "They are our soldiers also, they are our sons also". Of course they were joined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel who chimed in with "Israel defends herself, and we must say to Israel 'Go on defending yourself'".
However of the above only Hillary Clinton later the same day attended a fundraiser in her honor hosted by none other than Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch hasn't been the only big time player to donate to Clinton's senatorial campaign. Itemized donations recently made public show that many brilliant socialites including Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lopez, Bette Midler, and Marla Maples among such others have contributed thousands of dollars. With this bizarre combination of conservative and Hollywood money is it any wonder Clinton has New York's Senate seat wrapped up? For all the recent debate over the "Israeli lobby", it seems Hillary for one wants to assure that all the bases are covered.

Why is the US still in Iraq? Another question we're not supposed to ask is how did we get there? Instead we're supposed to believe the myth of "we were all wrong" which, though equally false, is apparently less laugh inducing than Condi's "No one could have guessed" claims. Refusing to stay silent on that, Brandy's highlight, John Freeman's "Dog won't hunt: Two new books detail how, when it comes to the Bush administration, the media has no bark, no bite" (Boulder Weekly):

Although the American people did not know it, the entire Washington press corps understood that President Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the moment he took office. In fact, in a pre-election interview with the Houston Chronicle, Bush admitted he wanted "to be known as a war president."
So it was odd that coverage in the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other newspapers during the lead-up to the Iraq war portrayed the president as an agonized leader who was being goaded into battle with a brutal dictator who "intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction," as David Remnick wrote in 2003, "but also to use them."
The story of how the Bush administration cooked up this marketing canard has been told and retold, but a complete picture of how the mainstream media ate it up has finally hit bookshelves. In Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, journalist Eric Boehlert details the media context in which it happened, while veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas puts the nature of this rollover in light of history in her new book, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How it has Failed the Public.
Thomas has been working in Washington since the 1940s, when reporters had to run to pay phones to file, so she is no naif when it comes to government spin. A finer term for this art, she says is "managed news," the earliest (and most brutal) example of which was the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal to print anything critical of the president or Congress.

Why is the US still there? How did the US get tricked in the first place? Add a third question to that: What can we do to stop the war?

We can be active. We can use our voices. We can speak out and demand that the troops come home. Lynda notes Cindy Sheehan's "Camp Casey III: The Struggle Continues" (Common Dreams):

Camp Casey is moving!
The Camp Casey Peace Movement, and the peace movement in general, will be eternally grateful to the Mattlage Family for allowing us to use their land near George's Crawford, TX ranch. They were extremely generous and courageous in allowing us to use their property when we were bursting at the seams at Camp Casey I this past August and we were also being threatened by shot gun blasts and drunken drivers plowing through our memorial. We also are grateful for being allowed to use the site for our other two subsequent Camp Caseys at Thanksgiving and at Easter especially since the Mc Clennan County Supervisors passed the ordinances suppressing our 1st Amendment rights to camp at Camp Casey I. We owe the Mattlage Family a debt of gratitude that I don't know if we will ever be able to repay! I know that their comfort, as well as ours, will be when our troops come home from the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.
However, we have now grown out of Camp Casey II and we needed to move on to bigger property. During Camp Casey Easter, we housed a few hundred people that the site could barely contain. With our commitment to being in Crawford every time that George goes on vacation (even though he seems to be skipping out on us a lot lately) we decided to buy property in Crawford to use until George's resignation or impeachment---which we all hope is soon for the sake of the world.
Our new property is in town and literally right around the corner from the Peace House. It is a beautiful, wooded 5 acres of land that will be ideal for our expanding peace population and for hosting our growing family. We are looking forward to being good neighbors in Crawford whenever we are there and we are looking forward to having good neighbors, also.
I think the people of Crawford are beginning to understand that we come in peace and love and that we just have an issue with just one resident: George Bush. Even though we don't agree politically with many of our neighbors we hope to enjoy a cordial relationship with everyone.

Cindy Sheehan's using her voice. We can all use our own voices. We're the only thing that will stop the war. Tour's are being extended, there's no end to the war in sight if the decision is left up to them. Ann Wright said up the ante, we should all aspire to that. One way (only one way, there are many) is by taking part in CODEPINK's TROOPS HOME FAST! because you'll be amazed at how much that brings the war to the forefront of the discussions you take part in.

This is phoned in tonight. I'm on the phone with Elaine and Rebecca as we address the inane Eric Alterman. Elaine's getting ready to post and I'm putting this up now so I can hear a read through before it goes up. I've been all over the place in this entry but I firmly believe you stand by and with your friends. So while I apologize for the scattershot nature of this entry, in the same circumstances, I'd do it just the same. In a world where the Bully Boy preaches hate and fear, friends are even more important.

We won't have a better world until we take steps to make a better world in our own lives.

The e-mail address for this site is (The Eric Altermans need not bother writing. I get a summary of the visitor/public account. I've always made it a policy in my offline life not to read fan mail. Once we had the the private accounts for members as well as the public account, I largely avoided the public account. Thanks to Ava, Jess, Martha and Shirley who work the public account like crazy.)